Riding a 1-inch thick piece of wood on wheels some 30 miles per hour downhill.
That’s 19-year-old Andre Brown’s hobby.
“Starting out, it is scary because you’re uncomfortable going that fast,” he says. “Then it becomes second nature. You figure out how to not get yourself killed.”
Brown started out about three years ago as a “dancer,” a style of longboarding where the riders perform tricks on their boards. About a year ago, he became a freestyler. That’s where athletes ride downhill, controlling their speed by kicking the board sideways as they go.
Longboarding is not as popular here as it is in California, and it’s more popular in Austin than it is in Dallas, but for a freestyler, there couldn’t be a better place than hilly Oak Cliff.
Brown found a low-traffic street that is steep and winding behind his home near Southwest Center Mall; he calls it “switchback hill,” and it’s his main training ground.
Recently he discovered a group of longboarders who meets Downtown every Sunday, and they usually find a parking garage for downhill bombing.
Brown wears a helmet to ride, and he’s saving up for specialized gloves after skinning the palms of his hands three times.
He had been riding about five hours a day, every day, until he recently took a job at Walmart and had to cut back. Now he’s riding about three days a week for three or four hours.
“I would like to get sponsored and travel, but that’s not a life goal,” he says. “I don’t want it to turn into a job. I just want to have fun.”